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If you have kids, you’ve been there. It’s 4 p.m. and you’re starting to think about what you’re going to make for dinner, and then you hear the call from the other room… “Mom, can I have a snack?” Most parents feel the tension of wanting to feed hungry kids but also wanting to make sure kids are eating healthy and in the right proportions. We also don’t want to spend our whole grocery budget on snacks! Having a plan even for snacks can save money and frustrations! Here are some great afternoon snack strategies for kids (that are also relevant at other times of the day!).
10 Afternoon Snack Strategies for Kids
Snack on healthy foods
When you think of snack foods, sometimes things like chips and pretzels come to mind, but we also don’t want our kids filling up on those foods when dinner is around the corner. Turn that on its head by letting your kids snack on fruits and veggies. Then if they aren’t as hungry at dinner time, you can still feel good about what they’ve eaten. I often turn to 100 Days of Real Food’s 85 Snack Ideas for Kids for inspiration.
Have dinner at snack time
If you have evening activities around dinner time, then just serve dinner early! Put tacos on the table at 4 pm and then have a big snack while you’re in the car or when you get home.
Combine carbs with protein or fat
Pretzels alone don’t fill anyone up, so be sure to pair carbs with protein or fat. Think cheese and crackers, apples and peanut butter, deli meat slices and veggie straws, or healthy smoothies!
Pick a snack window
So that your kids will still be hungry for dinner, pick a window of time when snacks will be offered. If your family eats dinner at 6, then the snack window might be from 3-4 pm. This keeps you from having to keep saying no all afternoon but also gives your kids structure so they know what to expect!
Sit at the table to eat
Kids are more likely to eat more and eat mindlessly when they’re doing something else while eating. Encourage your kids to have a healthy portion of their snack and to stop when they’re full.
Have a snack basket for each kid
This came from a friend who grew up in a large family. Her mom would have a basket for each kid and put food in it each morning (or once a week). When the basket was empty, that was it. This is like teaching your kids budgeting with food!
Create an “always ok” snack basket
Instead of having a snack bin for each kid, you can instead create a basket that you let your kids pick from. Then, don’t refill it until all the snacks are gone.
Teach portion control
The frugal way to do this is not to buy pre-packaged snacks—those are almost always more expensive. Instead, place an appropriate amount of whatever the food is on a snack or plate for each child.
Mix up what you offer for snack
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, so try to mix up what you offer. This doesn’t mean that you have to make something from scratch every day, but even mixing it up from week to week will help give your kids variety. Maybe this week the vegetable is bell pepper strips dipped in hummus; next week, you can offer raw broccoli and ranch dip. Apples this week, bananas next week!
Don’t offer snacks!
This one isn’t necessarily for everyone, but in my reading about teaching your kids good eating habits, it has come up a lot. There is a lot of debate about whether kids really need snacks, especially as they get older. It might be worth thinking about whether your kids are eating snacks because of hunger or simply out of habit.
Great Snack Recipes: